Great, India’s having fabs! But, is the tech choice right?

September 13, 2013

G450C

G450C

The government of India recently approved the setting up of two semiconductor wafer fabrication facilities in the country. It is expected to provide a major boost to the Indian electronics system design and manufacturing (ESDM) ecosystem. A look at the two proposals:

Jaiprakash Associates, along with IBM (USA) and Tower Jazz (Israel). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 26,300 crore for establishing the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I, 28nm node in phase II with the option of establishing a 22nm node in phase III. The proposed location is Greater Noida.

Hindustan Semiconductor Manufacturing Corp. (HSMC) along with ST Microelectronics (France/Italy) and Silterra (Malaysia). The outlay of the proposed fab is about Rs. 25,250 crore for the fab facility of 40,000 wafer starts per month of 300mm size, using advanced CMOS technology. Technology nodes proposed are 90nm, 65nm and 45nm nodes in phase I and 45nm, 28nm and 22nm nodes in phase II. The proposed location is Prantij, near Gandhinagar, Gujarat.

Now, this is excellent news for everyone interested in the Indian semiconductor industry.

One look at the numbers above tell me – NONE OF THESE are going to be 450mm fabs! Indeed, both will be 300mm fabs! After waiting for such a long time to even get passed by the Union Cabinet, are these 300mm fabs going to be enough for India? Is the technology choice even right for the upcoming wafer fabs in India? Let’s examine!

As you can probably see, both the projects have placed 22nm right at the very last phase! That’s very interesting!

Intel just showcased its Xeon processor E5-2600 v2 product family a few days back. I distinctly remember Intel’s Narendra Bhandari showing off the 22nm wafer sometime last week during a product launch!

For discussion’s sake, let’s say, a fab in India comes up by say, early 2015. Let’s assume that Phase 1 takes a full year. Which means, Phase 2, where 22nm node would be used, shall only be touched in 2016 or even beyond! Isn’t it? Where will the rest of the global industry be by then?

You are probably aware of the Global 450 Consortium or G450C, which has Intel, IBM, Samsung, GlobalFoundries and TSMC among its members.  What is the consortium currently doing? It is a 450mm wafer and equipment development program, which is leveraging on the industry and government investments to demonstrate 450mm process capabilities at the CNSE’s Albany Nanotech Complex. CNSE, also a consortium member, is the SUNY’s College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering!

So, what does all of this tell me?

One, these upcoming fabs in India will probably produce low- to mid-range chips, and some high-end ones at a later stage. Well, two, this does raise a question or two about India’s competitive advantage in the wafer fab space!  Three, there is lot of material on 450mm fabs, and some of that is available right here, on this blog! Have the Indian semiconductor industry folks paid enough attention to all that? I really have no idea!

Four, only the newer 300mm fabs built with higher ceilings and stronger floors will be able to be upgraded to 450mm, as presented by The Information Network’s Dr. Robert Castellano at the Semicon West 2013. Five, what are the likely alternative markets for 200mm and 300mm fabs? These are said to be MEMs and TSV, LEDs and solar PV. Alright, stop!

Perhaps, these product lines will be good for India and serve well, for now, but not for long!

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  1. Manoj Nagesh
    September 14, 2013 at 4:12 am

    Good article, I still want to say there is a lot to be done (especially on analog side) across 90 nm to 45 nm. There are many products, which needs support on 65 nm and 90 nm. People talk about 14nm or 16nm FINfet, but who has the verified results? I feel there is no harm in entering the nodes as mentioned above in your article. What is more important is the ecosystem around the fab to flourish the business opportunities, which is completely missing as of now in India. Hope, we have some good solutions to address these problems.

  2. Kiran Shetty
    February 16, 2014 at 6:38 pm

    Is there an opportunity for diamond cutting in wafer manufacturing?

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